LAWTON, Okla. (KFDX/KJTL) — While it wasn’t exactly home for the holidays for 76 soldiers stationed at Fort Sill, they did spend their holidays together with veterans in Lawton, Oklahoma.

“It makes me feel good because I had a grandfather who was a veteran as well, so it makes me feel really good to be here,” Sgt. Miata Cole, Fort Sill Senior Drill Sergeant said.

Cole said she knows it can be tough for soldiers not to see their family during the holidays, but opportunities to give back are what the holidays are all about, and they give the soldiers time to get out in the community and do things they normally wouldn’t do.

One of those opportunities was spending the entire afternoon at the Lawton Fort Sill Veteran’s Center, spreading joy to men and women who need it just as much as they do.

“The smiles you get to see from the veterans because some of the veterans were crying when they were telling their story,” Paula Savelio, a solider at Ft. Sill said. “It’s an emotional life story of what they went through and everything, so that’s the best part of talking to them and interacting.”

Veterans in attendance said they certainly felt the love and the holiday spirit from these soldiers.

“I tell you what, they’ve got some awful nice kids here,” Donald Millard, an Air Force Veteran said. “I’m so proud of them. It makes me just burst with the energy coming from them, you know? They’re wonderful kids, God bless them.”

Creating lasting memories like these for men and women who risked everything to fight for our country is what Sgt. Cole said it’s all about.

“It helps the morale because it can be depression since they are not going home, so it gets them out of that depression mode, gets them out of the barracks, at least,” Sgt. Cole said.

After a couple of laughs and conversations with these vets, the soldiers said they were returning to the barracks with some wisdom.

“I would advise them to make the most out of this career that they can make. Make the most because this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them, use it,” Millard said.

There’s a full week of fun ahead for the soldiers at Fort Sill, before things resume for them in January 2023.